Sean O’Brien has failed to recover from a foot infection and will now miss Ireland’s clash with Scotland on Saturday. It’s bad news for Declan Kidney and his management team, particularly after a strong display from O’Brien in Paris last Sunday. On the positive side, it does mean a first Ireland start for Peter O’Mahony, who comes straight in at openside. Shane Jennings comes onto the bench as back-row cover.
Saturday will cap a remarkable rise for O’Mahony. Still just 22, the Cork-born back-rower has only made 15 competitive starts for Munster. This season has seen him rapidly assume a first-choice role in Tony McGahan’s team. His aggressive, mature displays at blindside have made him undroppable at provincial level and it’s clear that he is a supreme talent. Asking him to start his first international match at openside, where he has only played 3 times for Munster, will not faze O’Mahony in the slightest.
From a young age, O’Mahony’s confidence and assertiveness have been eye-catching. Throughout his time with the Munster underage teams, his leadership seemed beyond his years, and that’s still the case. It was particularly revealing to hear Stephen Ferris say that O’Mahony was the first person to reassure him after his sin-binning in the final minute against Wales. It’s a fine example of POM’s leadership and maturity.
Though they are strengths, O’Mahony’s game is not all about attitude, aggression and physicality. He is a naturally skilled rugby player too. Having played some rugby in the centre at underage level, he possess a fine pair of hands, often displayed through his strong lineout skills. A No.8 for much of his career, O’Mahony is more at home there or on the blindside. However, he has all the attributes needed to thrive at openside too.
The point is that O’Mahony has the attitude and natural ability to succeed no matter where he plays. He is one of the best young players in the country and his Heineken Cup form this season makes his fully deserving of this international chance. Munster fans understand just how good O’Mahony can be, now it’s time for the rest of the country to see.
How do you think POM will adapt to the international game? Do you think the Scotland is a good time for his first start? How highly do you rate him? How badly will O’Brien be missed? Drop a comment below with your views!